A Content Management System, or CMS for short, is an administrative software system that allows its users, often unskilled in HTML and web development, to update, edit and create new pages on their website.

  • Does your web site contain a huge number of pages and corresponding level of difficulty in keeping track of all of them?
  • Does your organization rely on constant and regular web site changes, often with several people working on it?
  • Do your web site contributors lack sufficient knowledge in HTML?
  • Do you need to editorially review each new page before publication?

Can your company relate to any of the above scenarios? If so, using a CMS will save a lot of time, hassle and money in the long run.

Basic of a CMS
A typical CMS works like this,

  1. A web design layout is designed and developed. Usually this entails a logo/banner at the top, standard navigation menus across the top, down the left side, and/or at the foot of the page, and a ‘blank’ area where content is inserted
  2. This layout format is then converted into a master template for all subsequent pages. During the process of this conversion, the CMS admin backend is integrated and tested.
  3. Web content producers are given access and instructions on how to add text and images to web pages automatically. Most CMS are usually very intuitive and easy to operate.
  4. Each generated page is saved onto a database, for future editing or deletion.

More elaborate CMS can perform unique functions (such as archiving, built-in search engines, and mod rewrites), but basic functionality is still related to easy creation and editing of web pages.

What are the Types of CMS available?

Proprietary CMS
These systems are usually very expensive to purchase. These high end systems however come loaded with full features and usually have excellent customer and technical support. Common uses of these systems involve very large organizations with departments that require unique functionality.

Open source

These systems are typically free and relatively easy to install. Some of the better known open source systems include WordPress. Because of its open source nature however, you will find a dearth of customer and technical support, however there exists a huge following and forums dedicated to the popular systems. Customization capabilities vary from system to system.

Custom CMS
These types of systems are usually preferred as they allow you to develop from scratch, your preferred functionality. Debugging is also less of an issue as your web developer, having written the codes, can easily isolate and fix problems.

Bear in mind there are literally hundreds of CMS to choose from. Ranging in costs from free to over £500,000. What you do need to do, is firstly figuring out exactly what functionality your organization needs, your development budget and finally find a system that suits those needs best.

The downside to installing a CMS is of course, the amount of web development needed initially. While you are able to obtain free open source CMS programs, you still need to hire someone experienced and capable enough to integrate it correctly. This initial expense however, is usually a necessary evil and is justified as you avoid the need of hiring or outsourcing your webmastering needs down the road.

Search engine optimizing your CMS
If you do decide to install a CMS for your web site, the following considerations should be applied.

Mod rewrites or URL Rewrites
This ensures that your dynamically generate URLs are search engine friendly as opposed to using long session ids and strings.  A URL might be some thing like this www.mywebsite.com/?12432. They are converted into a friendly and readable  www.mywebsite.com/the-page-name.html. The search engines bots will then have no difficulty in indexing and caching these pages.

Fields for title and meta data entry
Ideally, you want to be able to insert your own title and meta tags. This applies to the alt tag code for all images as well. Using the correct keywords in these tags often provides a nice search engine rankings boost.

Sitemaps
All generated pages should be automatically inserted into your global website sitemap. This allows the search engine bots to easily find and spider all new pages.

Ultimately a CMS is meant to make life easier, not creating new rigid standards that require stop gap hacks or workaround solutions. Visualscope Studios has developed a custom CMS that can be suitably modified to meet your organisations’ needs.

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